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  • Program helps inmates transition to jobs, better lives

    Sep 12, 2017 | Read More News
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    Kaitlyn Carl was feeling about as low as you could get. Incarcerated on a felony conviction. Regretting the mistakes that landed her in Pima County’s Minimum Security Facility. But things began looking up when she enrolled in a Pima County program that’s helping inmates transition to society and minimize recidivism.

    InmatesA $492,441 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor is funding the Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release (LEAP-2 grant, managed by Pima County’s Community Services, Employment and Training Department (CSET). The funds enable county workforce specialists to work with inmates within 180 days of release on employability skills, resumes, interviewing and more. 

    Inmates in the program say the chance to practice interviewing and watch videos of former inmates who have successfully transitioned from jail to jobs has given them the hope and confidence they need to succeed once they’re released. 

    “LEAP has built my confidence so much,” Karl said. “My life’s not over. I feel hopeful and better about myself.”

    LEAP opened its doors at the Minimum Security Facility on Mission Road on April 3. In that time, the program has worked with more than 100 inmates, said Joaquin Murrieta, LEAP program coordinator. 

    One former inmate with sheet metalworking skills returned to a journeyman position after release, making over $20 an hour. Another got connected with the Kino Veterans’ Workforce Center, where he has access to funding that will help him return to college.

    A key component of the program is to ensure participants have housing once they’re released from jail. Many former inmates have problems finding housing with a conviction on their record. Others are trying to make lifestyle changes and don’t want to return to friends or family who may have contributed to their illegal activities.

    It’s why many LEAP participants work with the County’s Sullivan Jackson Employment Center (SJEC), which helps them find housing and rebuild their lives. 

    SJEC Director Daniel Sullivan said one of their case managers spends about about a quarter of her time working specifically with LEAP participants.

    “We get them a shelter bed if necessary, then into HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) housing,” Sullivan said. Participants also have access to additional employment workshops and job leads.

    Drugs landed Adriana Lozano in jail, “so I am definitely done with that,” she said emphatically. She’s already close to obtaining her GED and hopes to become a firefighter. LEAP, she said, is helping her reach that goal.

    “They’ve helped me with my resume, with creating an email account,” Lozano said. “This has really helped me with my confidence.”

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